LEXINGTON — Bridge construction for most people would just equate to finding an alternate route to their destination, but for Lexington Style Trimmings that construction has meant hard financial times.
The N.C. Department of Transportation closed the East Center Street Extension Bridge over Abbotts Creek this past August to construct a new bridge, which is slated to open by late May.
Lexington Style Trimmings at 1513 E. Center St. Ext. didn’t quite feel the pinch at first due to holidays and the Barbecue Festival making up some of the slack. However, more recently, the barbecue restaurant has lost 35 to 40 percent of its weekday sales, owner Mike Swing said.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Swing added.
While regular customers on Fridays and the weekends keep the restaurant chugging along, the working weekday crowd has grown slender.
“With the bridge being out, people don’t pass by the restaurant. People go to work one way and they go home one way,” Swing said, noting the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind.”
He added that his restaurant is only 300 yards away from Old U.S. Highway 64.
With the bridge being out, Swing said he wished the government would offer some type of assistance to businesses to help with the situation he is now in.
“My waitresses are the ones that have suffered the most. No business equals no tips,” Swing said.
But the family atmosphere retained all but one of the employees during the tough times. Although the kitchen staff is hourly and hasn’t been as affected as the wait staff, Swing has had to cut an hour or two of their regular schedule sometimes.
With strenuous financial times in mind, Wende Everhart, employee and daughter of Swing’s former business partner, Rickey Everhart, took to the computer and posted a message on Facebook. Through shares, likes and comments, the post began to circulate among the community and people responded.
That post published March 19, stating “We are doing all we can to stay open but you know this bridge closing is killing us!! We (are) holding on by the skin of our nose and we don’t want to close so please remember us when you are planning to grab a bite to eat!” Since that time, the post garnered more than 20 comments, over 60 likes and has been shared more than 190 times.
“Since she put it on Facebook, business has been damn near double,” Swing admitted.
Everhart said it has been encouraging to see the response of the community.
“I want to thank our customers that have supported us. There has been an outpouring of support this week, and we are very grateful,” Everhart said.
Lexington Style Trimmings began 26 years ago, with 22 of those years being in their current location. Swing and Rickey Everhart started the business selling barbecue, coleslaw and pimento cheese wholesale. The partners were going to build a restaurant in addition to the wholesale business when an existing barbecue restaurant went up for sale. They jumped at the chance.
Everhart died nine years ago, however, Swing continues the tradition and ships his products to other restaurants as far east as Burlington and as far west as Statesville. The coleslaw is the most popular, and Lexington Style Trimmings goes through about four tons of cabbage a week filling the orders.
“The only silver lining to the (East Center Street Extension) bridge being out is I’ve heard the bridge on (Old U.S. Highway) 64 is going to close in the next year or so. So maybe it will force people back by here,” Swing said.